By Hazel Trice Edney
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), nicknamed the “conscious of the Congress”, will seek to educate and sensitize President Donald Trump concerning the needs of Black people, according to a detailed letter sent to then President-elect Trump on the eve of his inauguration.
“During your campaign, you pledged to address a number of issues being faced by African-Americans. Unfortunately, your ‘New Deal for Black America’ represents the same old ‘Trickle Down’ economics assumptions that didn’t work for our communities in the 1980’s or in the 2000’s when these failed experiments were tried before,” the Jan. 19th letter states. “Furthermore, your insistence on reducing the African-American experience solely to the conditions faced by many in our inner cities is ultimately unproductive. 39 percent of African-Americans live in suburbs compared to 36 percent who live in inner cities. The remaining 25 percent live in small metropolitan areas and rural communities.”
Recently, Trump seemed to indicate that he was unaware of how to contact or set a meeting with the CBC. When April Ryan, veteran White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network, asked whether he would meet with the CBC on his agenda for inner-cities, he asked her if she could set up the meeting. His response was met with surprise from Ryan, her fellow journalists and the general public as reporters would normally consider it a conflict of interest to broker meetings between politicians.
The letter from the CBC, signed by Chairman Cedric Richmond, its other officers and all of its 49 members, in fact invited a meeting with Trump stating, “If you are serious about addressing issues in the African-American community, you would be wise to tap into the decades of expertise held by Members of our Caucus.”
Point by point, the letter responded to a 10-point plan crafted by Trump called “The New Deal for Black America.” The following are the first four points of Trump’s “New Deal” and the verbatim CBC responses:
TRUMP: “1. Great Education through School Choice. We will allow every disadvantaged child in America to attend the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. School choice is the great civil rights issue of our time, and Donald Trump will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice in all 50 states. We will also ensure funding for Historic Black Colleges and Universities, more affordable 2 and 4-year college, and support for trade and vocational education.”
CBC: “Conversations around education reform and “school choice” often ignore the conditions outside the classroom that contribute to a student’s performance. It is not enough to adjust a curriculum if we do not also address student hunger and account for parents having to work 2 or 3 jobs simply to make ends meet. Rather than address these interconnected barriers to academic achievement, your plan would strip away $20 billion in funding from public schools in order to create the largest private school voucher program in American history. The CBC supports access to good schools in all forms. However, simply shifting students from public to private schools does not ensure a quality education. A study into academic achievement of students in the Louisiana Scholarship Program, the largest existing voucher program, found a significant negative impact of voucher participation for math, reading, science, and social studies scores. Voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., have not resulted in any significant score difference between voucher and non-voucher students. Rather than diverting resources away from already under-resourced schools in pursuit of failed policies, the CBC would urge you to support methods that have been proven effective. Furthermore, HBCUs play an indispensable role in training African-American professionals that work, live, and serve in communities across the nation. These institutions are indispensable to our communities, and it is not enough to simply promise to “ensure funding”. You must back up that promise by providing HBCUs the support and resources necessary to carry out their critical mission. If you want to make real progress towards improving educational outcomes for African-Americans, you should embrace the policies laid out by Ranking Member Bobby Scott in the Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2016 and Rep. Marcia Fudge in the Core Opportunity Resources for Equity and Excellence Act of 2015.”
TRUMP: “2. Safe Communities. We will make our communities safe again. Every poor African-American child must be able to walk down the street in peace. Safety is a civil right. We will invest in training and funding both local and federal law enforcement operations to remove the gang members, drug dealers, and criminal cartels from our neighborhoods. The reduction of crime is not merely a goal – but a necessity.”
CBC: “Under President Obama, the Department of Justice (DOJ) began 23 investigations into law enforcement agencies accused of violating civil rights and entered 12 consent decrees to bring much-needed reforms to policing in Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland and other cities. Unfortunately, your actions, which include nominating Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, raise great concerns about the prospects of continuing the progress made under the outgoing Administration. In a 2008 paper published by the Alabama Police Institute, Sen. Sessions called consent decrees a “dangerous exercise of raw power’ and an “end run around the democratic process.” It’s troubling that a public official of Sen. Sessions’ stature would display such brazen hostility towards one of the most effective methods of bringing about meaningful reform in troubled police departments. If you believe that an individual who holds these views should serve as our nation’s top law enforcement official it is difficult to believe you are truly committed to promoting the types of community policing models supported by the CBC and its Members. In order to achieve meaningful reform on public safety and policing, you could adopt the proposals set forth in Representative Jackson Lee’s Gun Violence Reduction Resources Act and Rep. Jeffries’ Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act.”
TRUMP: “3. Equal Justice Under the Law. We will apply the law fairly, equally and without prejudice. There will be only one set of rules – not a two-tiered system of justice. Equal justice also means the same rules for Wall Street.”
CBC: “The Members of the CBC believe that actions speak louder than words, and your record thus far casts doubt on your commitment to seeking true equality in the legal system. In 1989, you spent $85,000 on newspaper advertisements calling for the execution of five African-American and Latino boys accused of raping a white woman in Central Park. The five boys, who were convicted based almost exclusively on their confessions that were coerced by detectives, were later exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence. In spite of this, as recently as October, you reiterated your belief that these five innocent men should be behind bars. Instead of spreading misinformation and exploiting harmful stereotypes, the CBC urges your Administration to continue investigating potential civil rights violations related to officer-involved shootings and to vigorously fight against voter suppression schemes. In addition, the CBC encourages you to join in our continued efforts to reform the criminal justice system and address mass incarceration. You can begin to make our justice system more fair and equitable by supporting Ranking Member Conyers’ End Racial Profiling Act and Rep. Richmond’s Student Disciplinary Fairness Act.”
TRUMP: “4. Tax Reforms to Create Jobs and Lift up People and Communities. We will lower the business tax from 35 percent to 15 percent and bring thousands of new companies to our shores. We will also have a massive middle class tax cut, tax-free childcare savings accounts, and childcare tax deductions and credits. We will also have tax holidays for inner-city investment, and new tax incentives to get foreign companies to relocate in blighted American neighborhoods. We will empower cities and states to seek a federal disaster designation for blighted communities in order to initiate the rebuilding of vital infrastructure, the demolition of abandoned properties, and the increased presence of law enforcement.”
CBC: “The CBC supports a national strategy to eliminate poverty and extend equitable access to economic opportunity to all Americans. Programs like the New Markets Tax Credit and Empowerment Zones that leverage private capital and reward companies for investing in distressed communities are a step in the right direction. However, tax incentives alone will not restore struggling communities. If you want to create jobs and lift up communities, you should target investment to those communities that need it most. You should support programs that support small and medium-sized businesses and address the access to capital crisis in the African-American entrepreneur community. African-American communities do not lack talent and expertise. What is lacking is a sustained commitment from the public sector to assist in addressing long-standing problems. The CBC has proposed an anti-poverty plan that could improve economic outcomes in our communities if properly resourced across the federal budget. The “10-20-30” plan provides at least 10% of funds in designated accounts be spent in communities with a poverty rate of at least 20% over the last 30 years. You would be wise in joining Speaker Paul Ryan in support of this proven strategy.”